Review: The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing III
The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing III (which is a mouthful of a title that we’re going to shorten down to simply Van Helsing III going forward) arrived on Xbox One at the end of December as one of the Games with Gold titles included with an Xbox Live Gold subscription. It’s ‘free’ to most gamers with an Xbox One, but is it worth playing? The long and short of it is…maybe.
Van Helsing III is – despite this being NeocoreGames third shot at the Diablo formula – still a pale imitation of the reigning king of three-quarter isometric view dungeon crawling loot fests, with clunky controls and basic user interface issues that other games fixed years ago. There’s still no dual stick controls, for example, so lining up shots, swings, or spells gets frustrating when the combat gets hectic, which is almost all the time.
It’s kind of astonishing that the inventory system, a ring-style system stolen wholesale from Diablo, manages to work as poorly as it does, given the example they clearly patterned it after. Poor selection controls make even choosing the inventory slot you want more difficult than it needs to be, and there’s a hodgepodge of statistics to wade through if you want to try and choose which piece of gear is better than the others.
Despite all that, there are some positives about Van Helsing III. The writing team, for example, kept surprising me with new quests that differed from the action-RPG standards of ‘save so-and-so’ or ‘kill all the bad guys’ and dialog that kept me from skipping the cutscenes. Even the classes aren’t your typical RPG fare, with my personal favourite being the Phlogistoneer, a guy strapped into a suit of power armor with a flamethrower arm and a missile pack on the back. Warrior? Wizard? Give me power armor and a full rack of Hellfire missiles any day of the week.
Even the loot, while it can be tough to spot on the ground and is a pain to sift through once you’ve picked it up, does provide a ton of variety to how you can play. Beef up your health and you can act like a tank, or go the glass cannon route and prioritize finding +damage items to slot in, it’s up to you.
Those who like to experiment with skill trees will find a lot to love here, with Van Helsing possessing a slew of skills to unlock, assign to whatever button you’d like, and upgrade multiple times in multiple ways. You can also assign – to an extent – new skills for Katerina, your ghostly companion, as well as outfit her with a limited selection of gear and choose how she’ll try to fight. You can also assign points to four different attributes as you level up, but I found it hard to say if they actually affected anything.
Finally, there’s the matter of complexity – with Van Helsing III throwing a staggering number of systems and sub-systems at you once you’ve arrived at the central hub location. There are multiple vendors selling different gear, an enchanter to augment your gear, a separate person who forges multiple pieces of gear to combine their stat bonuses into one piece, another who will reset your skill points, and one who sells randomized loot you can gamble on buying. Add in the planning table where you can recruit, train, and send out troops on missions, and the Chimera that you need to feed things you find so it’ll go complete missions to gather resources and gear, and it starts to get a little overwhelming.